The world is a very diverse place. Just by this fact alone, the different communities, tribes, kingdoms, and countries spread across the world developed different ways of doing things. What we would consider being normal here in the West, would be something totally different in places like Africa or China.
The same is true of medicine. Ayurveda is a discipline that was developed and practiced in India. This was meant to heal the body and it approaches illnesses in a different way, in comparison to what the West does.
Ayurveda is spread across five different elements. Let’s take a quick look at each of them.
- Space (Akasha)
Think of this as the blank canvas right in front of an artist. Space can be described as the canvas in which the artist puts down all their ideas, and it contains every single element of that work of art the artist is coming up with.
In Ayurveda, space is the place at which all thoughts and perceptions come into being. It is a place that holds the potential to do a lot of things and is practically brimming with energy. This energy is what spurs thought and perception.
- Air (Vayu)
When the boundless energy in space is spurred into action, it will first turn into air. This element is regarded as stealthy and invisible to the naked eye but can be felt through its work of driving movement and activity in the body.
Air is what’s responsible for driving thoughts in the mind, and also drives circulation in the body.
- Fire (Tejas or Agni)
Fire is regarded as a base element among many eastern cultures, and India is no different. Fire is regarded as the element responsible for liberating energy and turning that energy into whims and ideas. Fire is what helps the digestion of ideas in the mind, and the digestion of food in the body.
- Water (Jala)
Water has always been the source of life and in this case, it is responsible for nourishment. Water is responsible for protection against heat, dryness, and compressing effect of the other elements. Water is represented in the body as anything fluid, but in the mind, it is represented as love, and in some cases, compassion.
- Earth (Prithivi)
This has always been the firmament upon which all life is built on. It is also a representation of stability, solidity, and steadiness. A good number of things that you encounter out in nature are made up of this element. In the body, the earth is represented as the solid structure of which the body is built. In the mind, it appears as surefooted surety.
Now, these elements don’t work in isolation. They can combine with each other to come up with a variety of effects. The elements, in this case, will combine into sets of two. These sets are known as Doshas, and a person will exhibit characteristics of the dominant dosha, of which the individual elements will influence the behavior of that person.
What happens is with these Doshas, especially the dominant one, they will tend to overpower the other doshas. This will result in an imbalance that will manifest as an illness in the body. Re-balancing these doshas are how ayurvedic medicine will treat the patient.